Conventional wisdom puts Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett firmly on the playoffs-or-bust hot seat in 2018.
He has a 68-55 record, including just one playoff win, in seven and a half seasons as head coach and is coming off a 9-7 campaign in the same season the Philadelphia Eagles won their first Super Bowl title under second-year coach Doug Pederson.
Yet, in the eyes of owner Jerry Jones, Garrett is as safe and secure as ever.
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“No. That’s the best answer I can give and the fairest,” Jones said when asked at the training camp opening state of the union press conference Wednesday if Garrett was facing a playoffs-or-bust campaign.
More pointedly, Jones said Garrett and the coaching staff were things that excited him most going into a 2018 season with a decidedly young team in transition.
The Cowboys have just three players over 30 on the roster, including just one position player in linebacker Sean Lee.
Tight end Jason Witten is retired and receiver Dez Bryant is no longer here.
Quarterback Dak Prescott is the new face of the franchise and running back Ezekiel Elliott is its most indispensable player. Both are in their third seasons.
So it’s incumbent on Garrett and the coaching staff, including important new additions in secondary coach Kris Richard and receivers coach Sanjay Lal, to bend a few branches on this young tree that the Cowboys are building with.
“Obviously, our leadership, we kept the key person when we talk about this coaching staff, which is Jason Garrett,” Jones said. “I’d say he’s a lot better coach today than he was last year or the year before that or the year before that. That’s the way it works when you are driven and motivated.
“What we’re able to do is keep our coordinators, basically with a real change in the positions coaches and, if you will, one of the coordinators on the special teams. This really gives us an exciting opportunity. We’ve got a very young team, but yet we’ve brought some people in who can give them a way to improve on how they’ve been coached in the past. I love it. I think it really has a chance, we’ll see as early as this training camp, but has a chance to make a big difference.”
Let Jones tell it, Garrett and this staff are here for many years to come.
Garrett is already the longest-tenured Cowboys coach since Tom Landry’s legendary 29-year stint. Of course, his stay hasn’t brought the successes of the past.
That Jones has been known to change coaches, including six since hiring Jimmy Johnson to replace Landry in his first season as owner in 1989, is one reason to question Garrett’s security.
But Jones says he has learned a lesson from his past ways and mistakes, possibly having a quick trigger with Wade Phillips who preceded Garrett.
He is focusing on the big picture with Garrett.
“Obviously I could have easily been wrong with Wade Phillips,” Jones said. “You never know. ... I think it’s as logical as watching my step as I walk off this stage that Jason is better and the right man for this job, even though he didn’t get coach of the year last year.
“... We see better than anybody in the world in Jason. Better than anybody. Consequently, I’m excited about him being our head coach.”